The Story Close Reads

Unearth the hidden stories buried in world events and cultural phenomena.

Latest post
31 Jan 2024
Article Count
9 min read

A prison island. A smuggled phone. Behrouz Boochani on the writing that saved him.

Four years after his incarceration on Manus, Behrouz Boochani reflects on the writing that helped him hold onto life while in prison—and then to make sense of it after.

9 min read

Want to predict the wars of tomorrow? Do what the military does: hire sci-fi writers.

Science fiction writers usually imagine far-out worlds for fun (and sometimes money). Now, a select few are doing it in the name of national security.

7 min read

The digital media experiment is over. What comes next?

They were the beloved upstarts of the millennial era. Now publications like BuzzFeed and Vice are the ones being disrupted. Where did the dream of the 2010s go wrong?

9 min read

How to evict a troublemaking titan from your football club

For years, Jeff Kennett ruled Hawthorn Football Club like he’d once ruled Victoria. Then along came a challenger trained in the art of political storytelling.

11 min read

When Nathan Anderson tells stories, companies crumble

The activist investor behind Hindenburg Research is doing the work once reserved for investigative reporters (and making millions in the process). Has he stumbled on a new model for holding corporations to account?

11 min read

The news is broken. These journalists are trying to repair it.

For decades, newsrooms have followed the dictum ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. Experts say a more helpful form of journalism is possible. Will it take a revolution to put it into practice?

6 min read

So you’ve been fired. Here’s how not to post about it on LinkedIn.

Can you post about being laid off without seeming like an unhinged automaton? Comedian Patrick Marlborough investigates the strange, relentlessly happy phenomenon of being fired in the age of LinkedIn.

9 min read

What I learned about storytelling after reading every Jack Reacher novel in a year

When the world shut down, writer Fleur Macdonald sought distraction in the 26 paperback books of Lee Child. She came for the punch-ups. She left with a masterclass in fiction writing.

6 min read

The Queen’s funeral was a historical event. The media covered it like a personal tragedy.

Australians responded to the Queen’s passing in various ways—not all of them glowing. Why aren't these views expressed in our media?

Jill Stark


14 min read

Kurt Vonnegut graphed the world’s most popular stories. Do his diagrams tell us something important about humanity?

The Slaughterhouse-Five author believed there were just eight different story 'shapes'—and that they might be of interest to anthropologists. The anthropologists thought otherwise. But why?

7 min read

Inside out: How the media lost its perspective—and the 2022 federal election

While reporters were busy asking trivia questions, others sat on news that would have sent shock waves through the political system. Will the press learn from its mistakes? Ben Eltham investigates.

Ben Eltham


9 min read

The climate is changing. Science fiction is too.

The climate crisis has sparked its own literary genre. Is it just morbid entertainment, or could ‘cli-fi’ actually help us avert disaster?

8 min read

Storytelling is coming for your favourite sport. Is that a good thing?

Reality TV is bringing sports like F1 to the uninitiated. Fans say the format shines a light on a world usually hidden from view by media gatekeepers. Others aren’t so sure.

7 min read

“Is this thing working?”: How Zelensky borrowed from comedy to capture the world’s attention

Before he was president of a country under siege, Volodymyr Zelensky was a comedian. Has he transferred the skills he learned on the comedy circuit to the diplomatic stage?

4 min read

Democrats wanted the Jan. 6 hearings to be a blockbuster. So they hired a storyteller.

How do you turn 140,000 legal documents into a primetime TV phenomenon? You call James Goldston.

11 min read

The island of Hy-Brasil never existed. So why did it appear on maps for nearly 700 years?

What the story of the “Irish Atlantis” says about our need to make sense of an uncertain world.

7 min read

How to lose friends and influence people

Has Grace Tame’s refusal to bargain with power changed the rules around public advocacy in Australia?

5 min read

12 steps for making “iconic” TV shows, according to noted storytelling genius Jeff Bezos

The bazillionaire once listed a dozen storytelling elements every Amazon TV show had to include. They say more about our obsession with rules than they do about making good TV.

7 read

Why country songs are the tabloid journalism of music (and tabloid journalism is the country music of news)

They're often derided for their ‘so bad they’re good’ wordplay. But there’s a skill to crafting the perfect country song title—and journalists would do well to take note.

8 min read

Battle of the brands: how today’s politicians are sold as products on a shelf

If Labor versus Liberal sometimes feels like Campbell’s Soup verus Heinz, that’s no accident.

7 min read

QAnon, fan fiction, and the blurry line between reality and fantasy

The conspiracy theory, which borrowed from the creative writing community to tell its story, has more in common with Harry Potter than you might think.

6 read

The dark side of happy ever after

The media is slowly abandoning the doom-and-gloom cliches associated with mental illness. But do the alternative narratives fall into the same trap?

Jill Stark


Sign up to
The Story Newsletter

The best of the website, with bonus newsletter-only trimmings. Delivered to your inbox every so often.